During the six months that Malenchenko and Lu spent aboard the space station, they focused on station operations and maintenance, scientific research, science-focused education activities, and Earth observations. They also oversaw the upgrade of two station software packages. The first upgrade prepared the station for the additional truss segments that were delivered and installed during the STS-115/12A mission. The second brought the station to the STS-116/12A.1 software configuration, which involved adding another section to the Integrated Truss Structure. Performing these software upgrades during Expedition Seven gave ground controllers extra time to test the new software before the assembly elements were actually brought to the station and installed.
The crew devoted more than 200 hours to U.S., Russian, and other partner research that focused on human life sciences, as well as physics and chemistry, and their applications in materials and manufacturing processes. The station also served as a platform to study the Earth's environment.
Life sciences experiments continuing into Expedition Seven from earlier missions were:
Among Expedition Seven's most important functions, however, was to provide motivation and inspiration for today's youth, the next generation of explorers. One of the crew's experiments allowed middle school students to control a camera on the space station to take pictures of the Earth. The students used these images to study the Earth's geography and environment.
The crew also built on the education efforts of Expedition Six ISS Officer Don Petit, whose explanations and activities from his "Saturday Morning Science" demonstrations focused on physical phenomena in microgravity. Lu continued those demonstrations during Expedition Seven, taking advantage of available time on orbit to reach out to students and researchers.
Malenchenko and Lu returned to Earth on October 27, 2003, aboard the Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft, the same vehicle that brought them to the station.